The leader of Bremer Financial Corp., Jeanne Crain, said Friday she's not motivated by keeping her job and compensation in the two-year fight she has led against trustees of Otto Bremer Trust over the future of the bank.
"It's interesting to me when that allegation has been raised," she said in the court hearing where the trustees are fighting to keep their jobs. "It's so wrong. It's so backwards in a way."
Crain and other board members of the St. Paul-based bank broke with the trustees in summer 2019 over whether to seek a buyer or merger partner for Bremer Financial. The two sides traded lawsuits later that year. Last year, the state Attorney General's Office, which oversees charitable foundations in Minnesota, intervened in the dispute.
On Friday, as the third week wound down in a hearing tied to the Attorney General's legal petition to remove the trustees, Crain took the stand for the final 20 minutes. That was enough time for her to identify herself, describe her history at Bremer and then answer one of the questions that has loomed above public discussion of the dispute.
"Have you heard allegations that you're fighting to keep your job?" Christopher Burns, assistant attorney general, asked her.
Crain noted she stood to benefit financially from almost any transaction involving Bremer. If the bank were sold, the shares in it that she owned would likely rise in value, she said. And if there was no job for her in the ongoing company, her employment contract provides substantial compensation, she added.
"I've been in the industry for 40 years and, if I chose to continue to work, I think I would land," Crain said. Then she added she also had the option to retire comfortably.
"I can say unequivocally it was never anything about me personally," she said.
The Attorney General's Office is asking Ramsey County District Judge Robert Awsumb to remove the three Otto Bremer trustees — Charlotte Johnson, Brian Lipschultz and Dan Reardon — and appoint new ones to lead the charitable foundation, which is one of Minnesota's largest. Last year it distributed about $70 million.
The Attorney General's Office has not taken a stand on whether Bremer Financial should be sold by the trust. The ownership arrangement, which is unlike any other in American banking, was created by the bank's founder, Otto Bremer, in the 1940s to survive him. He died in 1951.
Crain returns to the stand on Monday.